In the time it takes you to inhale and exhale, swaths of the Amazon rainforest will have burned. Countless animals will have died. We will never know the true death toll. 10% of the species living on this planet reside in the rainforest. Once upon a time, it was a mysterious green world, wet enough to make it immune to fire, until humans altered the climate and threw the earth out of balance.

The climate is not the cause of these fires. People are. One report says they were all set in one night, many weeks ago now. It was apparently coordinated on WhatsApp between loggers and farmers who called for “a day of fire.” They knew their government wouldn’t stop them. Jair Bolsonaro campaigned on opening the Amazon rainforest to grazing and agriculture. He might as well have lit these fires himself.

Along with the rich biodiversity of plants and animals, seen nowhere else in the world, over a million indigenous people live in the rainforest – people who only want to be left in peace. Just as Donald Trump, Bolsonaro’s evil twin, has contempt for immigrants of color, the president of Brazil has openly expressed his dislike for these tribes:

“The North American Calvary were the competent ones because they decimated their Indigenous people in the past and today they don’t have this problem in their country,” he has said.

It’s hard to wrap your mind around the staggering ignorance and arrogance of one man, who can literally bring the earth to the brink of destruction because he refuses to believe there is a climate crisis, who shrugs off the fact that the Amazon produces  20% of the world’s oxygen. Sounding like a petulant child, he has said that the Amazon belongs to Brazil, so they can do whatever they want with it. That’s a bit like California saying it can do whatever it wants with the Pacific Ocean because it laps up on its shores.

Not to be left behind in the race to decimate the planet, Donald Trump has now announced that he wants to open the Tongass National Forest – the world’s largest temperate rainforest — to logging. He also wants to lift restrictions on the emissions of methane, a gas known to contribute to climate change. This after announcing the gutting of the Endangered Species Act, which many environmental organizations are challenging in court.

The scientists who both Trump and Bolsonaro have such disdain for have said that over a million species could go extinct in the next couple of decades if we don’t make dramatic changes. The changes that these two men are making will probably hasten that.

A friend said to me recently, “I’m glad I got to experience this earth before we ruined it. It breaks my heart that my kids won’t know how beautiful it was.”

I remember as a child feeling that the earth was a solid, permanent thing that could never be destroyed. It was dependable, from the gold crack of dawn to the way seasons turned. We had thunderstorms every winter in California then, and back east lakes and rivers froze solid so skaters could spend hours on the ice. The fragility of the earth never occurred to me; now it’s all I can think of.

But I wonder if any of us can really comprehend the future we’re ushering in – air that’s unbreathable, land that’s been ravaged, animals who used to roam the earth and have gone extinct. I wonder if it’s like trying to understand infinity – we can’t quite grasp the concept.  Because if, collectively, we truly understood what’s happening, wouldn’t countries with more sensible leaders band together and intervene? If Jair Bolsonaro were sitting back and letting cities burn, with people trapped in buildings and countless lives being lost, I doubt other countries would simply be asking if they could send money to help. They would order fleets of planes and armies to put out the flames. They would see it as an emergency that had to be dealt with immediately.

But we aren’t treating the destruction of the Amazon as an emergency, even though we know its end could ultimately lead to ours. Two men are working on turning this planet into a wasteland. Surely we can stretch our minds around that reality and figure out how to stop them.




  1. Dar Goldstein says:

    Vote them all out and replace them with decent people who care about this planet.

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